RAID grabs City Council's attention

KINGMAN - Give RAID credit. The Residents Against Irresponsible Development have certainly gotten the attention of the Kingman City Council.

Late last year Council voted 4-3 to rezone 15.46 acres at Airway Avenue and North Castle Rock Road from residential to commercial.

RAID recently succeeded in a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot in November, when residents will have the opportunity to vote whether or not to rezone the property.

The success of the petition for referendum prompted the developer of the proposed strip mall to pull out of the deal.

RAID members have also spoken out against city's handling of the proposed Kingman Crossing interchange at recent meetings, as have a number of other residents.

It would appear an outspoken minority has cast doubt on the Council's ability to represent the needs and desires of Kingman residents, but not all Council members voted in favor of the rezoning.

Council members Kerry Deering and Janet Watson voted against it, as did Mayor Les Byram.

Those who did vote in favor of the Airway and North Castle Rock property rezone feel they did what they were elected to do: bring businesses and retail shops to Kingman, address traffic problems, and not cater to every issue brought about by those in one neighborhood.

The saw it necessary to instead look out for the community's interests as a whole.

Councilman Ray Lyons said he hasn't changed his mind about the rezoning ordinance of 15-plus acres for a strip mall at Airway and Castle Rock Road.

"I still think it's the right project in the right place," he said in a phone interview Monday.

"I think it would really help the traffic problems on Andy Devine and Stockton Hill by having another place to shop on the other side of the tracks."

Residents most often complain about a lack of shopping and nice restaurants, gridlock on Stockton Hill Road, and businesses moving out of town, usually to Bullhead City, Lyons said.

This takes sales tax away from Kingman, making it more and more difficult both to meet the desires of the community and to collect enough sales tax for necessary city services.

"If we run off businesses like the strip mall, which has already left town, if we keep running them off like that, we're not going to have any revenue to provide all the services that all these people expect. That's the bottom line right there."

As for RAID, the name itself accuses the Council of making irresponsible decisions, he said.

"The thing is, we're elected to represent the entire city and not just 20 people in one area."

Councilman Deering said in an interview Wednesday that "it's pretty sad" when a city feels sales tax and impact fees on new construction dictate how the city runs and maintains services.

"I realize that Kingman will continue to grow, it just needs to be controlled," Deering said, reflecting some of the sentiments of RAID members, who've stated several times that the group isn't anti-growth but "anti-irresponsible growth."

Looking to new businesses for quick fixes won't be beneficial to Kingman in the long run, especially without public support, Deering said.

Vice Mayor Dave French has stuck to his original vote in favor of the strip mall. He believes that Council should seek to make neighborhoods throughout the community pedestrian friendly.

"I think that walkable neighborhoods should be the next thing. That was part of the theory, and if I'm wrong, then I guess the voters will tell me, but I haven't changed my mind," he said.

French expressed some frustration over RAID seemingly wanting to target every zoning issue and General Plan amendment.

"What did they elect the Council for if they want to do elections for everything?" French asked in a recent phone interview.

As one of the two newest members, Watson voted against the rezone of the 15 acres for a strip mall because, she said, it didn't feel like the right move at the time.

"I always try to look at the big picture and think about what's right ... and I think this was particularly distressing because the property owners didn't want to compromise and work with the neighborhoods," she said Tuesday.

With the residents not supporting the rezone and the property owners not negotiating, as requested by Council, Watson said she couldn't support the change.

Overall, Watson respects RAID's focus on zoning.

"That's a group of citizens who've taken the survey to the next level and formed a group to step up and tell us what they think," she said.

Council has much more to worry about than just zoning, she said. And while she's happy to see residents getting involved, she, similar to Lyons, dislikes the group's title because it implies that Council is irresponsible.

"We try to be responsible in all the decisions that we make, and it's a wide range of things we have to consider," Watson said.

Deering expresses almost opposite sentiments, advising that RAID use caution not to overextend its focus and stick to zoning issues rather than, like they have at recent meetings, speak across the board against items on Council's agenda.

"Keep focus on zoning issues, not so much on what color to paint the curbs," he said.

In general, though, he appreciates the work RAID has done.

Besides his unappreciative view of RAID's name, Lyons thinks residents in the community, if concerned with Kingman's future, should seek to get involved more directly with city affairs.

"They aren't on any commissions, they weren't on the ballots, they don't do anything where their voices could be heard other than in the newspaper. They don't get involved, that's what bugs me," he said.

Councilman Tom Spear, who is serving his third term, said in January that RAID members "tend to pick and choose the parts of Growing Smarter they choose to listen to and not take it as a whole."

The Arizona Legislature passed the Growing Smarter Act in 1998 to more effectively "plan for the impacts of population growth by creating a more meaningful and predictable land planning process."

This includes considering open space, growth areas, environmental planning and cost of development, according to the act's summary.

"In my mind, if you follow the dictates of Growing Smarter, it tells you to have commercial interspersed with residential as good for convenience," Spear said.

"It promotes a walkable neighborhood rather than the one that requires automobiles.